How to Avoid 1,4-Dioxane in Your Shampoo

How to avoid 1,4 dioxan in skin and hair-care products

1,4-Dioxane is classified within the EU as a carcinogen. 1,4-Dioxane might be present in your shampoo, shower gel, deodorant, facial cleaner etc., but it will never be on the list of ingredients. 1,4-Dioxane is a contami­nation product formed during the production of certain ingredients. To avoid it completely, you need to recognize which ingredients that might be contami­nated.

1,4-Dioxane Contaminates Ethoxylated Surfactants and Emulsifiers

Many skin and hair products marketed as being gentle, contains surfactants that have been made more water-soluble by ethoxy­lations. One example is Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), a very common surfactant in shampoo, hand soap and baby products. It might sound good, a more water-soluble surfactant is easier to rinse off and therefore gentler to the skin. The problem is that in the process, 1,4-Dioxane is formed as a byproduct, contaminating the final product.

The difference between SLS and SLES

1,4-Dioxane Is Classified as a Carcinogen but no Regulation of Trace Limits

1,4-Dioxane is classified as a class 2 carci­nogen within the EC, that is, suspected of causing cancer [1]. The EC Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) has recommended the implementation of regulation for acceptable trace limits of 1,4-Dioxane [1], but so far there is no regulation, just recommendations. There are techniques to reduce the formation of 1,4-dioxane, so-called vacuum stripping, but without regulating trace levels it is impossible as a consumer to tell in which products the technique has been used or not. Even if analyses of consumer products have shown that the levels of 1,4-dioxane have decreased radically since the 1970s, the amounts found in certain products is still unreasonably high [2-3]. We find this alarming considering that these types of surfactants are very common in baby shampoos. Our recommendation is, therefore, to completely avoid products that might be contaminated with 1,4-Dioxane.



  1. Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), Scientific opinion on: The Report of the ICCR Working Group: Considerations on Acceptable Trace Level of 1,4-Dioxane in Cosmetic Products, 2015.
  2.  FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 1,4-Dioxane A Manufacturing Byproduct. 3 July 2007 (Last update; 17 December 2014); Available at: [Accessed; 30 April 2017]
  3. Black, R.E. et al., Occurrence of 1,4-Dioxane in cosmetic raw materials and finished cosmetic products. J AOAC Int, 2001. 84(3): 666-70.


Read more about Toxins in Skin Care